Fujifilm X-T1 Review and Write Up
I have had the X-T1 for a while now since my first impressions went up about it, it is time to sit down and write-up a proper full review of how I’ve used it over the past few months. Over that time I’ve played with it, I’ve travelled with it and I’ve used it for professional work and shot everything that I’d normally shoot with it from casual family time to professional interior room shoots with full lighting. That all gives me a fairly broad view to judge the X-T1 on its performance as an all-rounder. This is my Fujifilm X-T1 review from the real-world as I’ve used it.
Let me be honest here up front. I didn’t want to like the X-T1 right from the start. I love the Fujifilm cameras because of the look of them as much as anything else, the design of the X-Pro1 is just perfect for me, a perfect size to get hold of and use. A classic camera, minimal, but with great technology on the inside. It’s not the quickest camera around, but I don’t want or need it to be. The whole design makes you want to slow down and think about what you’re doing before pressing the shutter button. That in turn helps improve your skills as it makes you think first, that’s what made me fall in love with the Fujifilm X-Series in the first place.
Now, in steps the X-T1! A relative speed demon! Designed to look more like the traditional SLR and marketed to shoot quickly, it just isn’t the camera I was looking for in an X-Series.
For me, the X-T1 doesn’t follow the same principles as the original X-Series. It appears to chase the OM-D far too much, which I think is a bit of a shame. At the same time I do totally understand that Fujifilm is a commercial company and they have to make money, many people prefer the ‘dSLR-style’ design and want weather-sealing as part of the package and this camera gives them that. Personally I don’t find the X-T1 at all attractive, and with the battery grip attached it is just plain ugly! Unique idea that, having a battery grip .. oh no, the OM-D has one of those to doesn’t it .. strange coincidence!! Reading the spec of the X-T1 you could almost copy-and-paste the OM-D spec, or am I being too cynical?!
So, is it better to use than an OM-D?… Hell yes! Despite me not liking the overall look that much, it is better than the Olympus to use. The button placement and grip are far more ergonomically designed for my taste, and I’m really not keen on the blank unmarked buttons of the OM-D. The OM-D seriously feels like a toy in comparison to the X-T1. Not in build quality, the OM-D feels fairly solid, but in terms of just holding it in your hands. I’m not bashing the OM-D, in fact before I saw the X-Pro1 I had an OM-D on pre-order so I’m not someone against Olympus or M43 before anyone thinks I am, but as soon as I saw and used an X-Pro1 I had to have one – in fact I bought one of the very first ones out there in the shops! I have since had a good play with the OM-D and really don’t like the handling at all. It is just plain fiddly to use and my (not really that big) hands it makes me feel like a giant in mittens when trying to use it! Yes yes, the OM-D might be faster at this, it might be more that, but if I’ll I’m doing is fiddling around with a camera then I’m not a happy photographer bunny! The X-T1, whilst smaller than the X-Pro1, I have to admit fits very nicely into my hands and doesn’t feel overly small. I think you’ve probably guessed by now that I still prefer the X-Pro1 – that body size just fits for me, but you do get used to the smaller X-T1 very quickly and the extra bulge of the grip does admittedly make it easier to hold.
The rear of the X-T1 is quite minimal and the large palm and thumb rest provide good secure grip. The buttons are well placed and for once on an X-Series camera there are none that I find myself accidentally pressing whilst holding the camera normally. The exposure compensation dial has been increased in diameter, but is well tucked into the body and doesn’t tend to get knocked.
The shutter speed dial is the same as before, with the recent 180x setting carried over from the X-E2 to give quick access to the maximum shutter speed you can sync at with flash.
The front of the camera has a further customisable Fn button, which I use to set the AF point.
A second dial is located just under the shutter release button. I have no idea what to do with it and never use it! OK, being serious, it is used to control either aperture or shutter speed, but there are dials on the lens and top of the camera for that so I really don’t understand why it is there! EDIT: It has since been pointed out to me that this front dial can be used to scroll through preview images, and retains any image zoom whilst you do scroll through, so maybe it does have its uses!
One of the big draw backs for me on the X-T1 is the lack of a built-in flash. I love to use a built-in flash for a quick pop of fill light and having it integrated into the camera makes that convenient. Fuji, unlike Sony, do include a small external flash that sits on the hotshoe, but I (and I’m not the only one reading around) had lost it within a few days and although I found it a few days later, I’m sure that isn’t an isolated incident! The other issues that I found with the flash on are that first the camera looks even uglier and secondly I also found that when it was in the off/down position it affected my ability to get my eye close up against the viewfinder. On the upside it draws power from the camera battery so no need to carry a second set of batteries.
On the top left is the new ISO dial, which is a first for an X-Series camera. I’ve heard complaints that is it on the ‘wrong’ side, but I’m not sure how it would fit on the other side of the camera. I don’t find it an issue at all as I really don’t adjust the ISO all that often, more than likely I know what I’m shooting and it’s fixed for the shoot. I tend to either use ISO 200 or Auto ISO and rarely spend the shoot constantly changing it, and if I ever do it is a very deliberate choice rather than something I desperately need to get to quickly. Having the ISO dial on display is a good immediate reminder of what you have it set it and worthwhile for that alone. There are H1 and H2 settings on the ISO dial, both of which can be custom set to values of your choosing to 12800 and above. I’ve heard a number of complaints about the push button lock, but if it wasn’t there, you would hear just as many complaints about it not locking, so Fuji wouldn’t win with everyone whatever they chose do it! It simply isn’t an issue for me, and I can’t see it being all that hard to use.
Under the ISO and shutter speed dials are shooting mode and auto exposure modes. These are both useful as they keep you out of the menu’s and as someone who often shoots panorama, being able to choose panorama mode directly on the dial is fantastic! Other than that, personally, it never moves out of S. I have on rare occasions knocked it into either CL or CH modes and when I’ve gone to take a photo frightened myself with a burst of images, I have also found the metering mode changed by accident too, so for future models a minor change might be useful to either make those controls harder to move perhaps.
The View Mode makes a welcome return as it had gone missing on the X-E2 to much annoyance (my own too!). This time it is located on the ‘prism’ and there is an extra mode which makes a lot of sense to me. That being you can set the camera to have neither the rear screen or EVF active and the EVF will only activate when you put your eye to the camera. That is something I wanted to see since the original X100 as it helps conserve battery power, and helps speed things up if you see a shot as it allows you to keep the camera in stand-by mode rather than turning it on/off all the time.
The right hand and lower D-pad buttons on my version are a little spongy, but I have heard that modes from later in the production line have an improved design, I’m not sure if that’s true or not. I think part of the problem is that on previous models they were very noticeably ‘clickly’. After using the camera a while you do get used to them. I’ve tried a friends newer X-T1 and it is definitely much better than the one I have, so Fuji must have updated something.
Six buttons across the camera can now be customised as Fn buttons and assigned to a variety of things. My preference has been to set the D-pad buttons in the same way as they are on the X-E2 because I’m familiar with that and can know instinctively which each button does what without having to remember what unmarked buttons do! I’m not a big fan of loads of unmarked buttons, the Sony A7 frustrated me for that very reason, but I do see the benefit of having a couple that can be customised to your needs. As always on the Fuji cameras, if you press and hold on the customisable button a quick menu will pop up allowing you to change that button’s function immediately without having to go into the menu system, which is an excellent idea.
I know people who have set every button on the D-Pad to AF point change, so that if you want quick access to changing the AF point, all you do is double press the d-pad button and it moves in that direction, neat little solution. However I use the button on the front to select AF point and then use the d-pad to set it, I think it works just as quickly yet still allows you to customise the four d-pad buttons, which means I can keep them setup the same as my other cameras.
The usual top Fn button from other X-Series cameras has been changed to a video record button on the X-T1. With the ISO dial available I don’t miss this Fn button and the video record button is tucked away enough that you don’t press it by mistake, at least I never have in all the time I’ve used it.
Between the shutter speed and exposure compensation dial at the back is a new WiFi button that gives quick access to connect your device to the camera for either immediate transfer of images or remote control depending on which option you choose within the App, a lore more about that later!
My biggest frustration with the design of the buttons is that Fuji have changed the Focus Assist to a separate button now, where on all previous cameras you press in the dial on the back and then use the scroll to control the magnification for either Focus Assist or playback zoom. As I use several Fuji X-Series cameras that sort of thing does get frustrating as you’ve got to remember what you’re doing on each different camera. I’m not sure why they decided to change it, but it has been suggested to me that the push-button scroll wheel had a tendency to stop working, although it’s not something I’ve had any problem with myself, perhaps they decided to drop the button/wheel idea for that reason.
I really wish Fujifilm would decide on one basic button layout and stick to it! As someone with an X-Pro1, X-E2, X100S and X-T1, having to remember where all the buttons are on each one (especially in the dark) is just frustrating. I guarantee that I can pick up any pro-level Nikon dSLR and immediately be able to switch between all of them and know exactly where everything is.
Connections and other stuff!
There are doors to the left and right of the camera. On the right is a side-loading SD card slot, which is compatible with the new UHS-II cards that allow up to 240Mbs. Shooting at full blast RAW+JPEG it’s amazing to see how many the camera can handle before it slows down, and write speeds are definitely improved. Personally I’d still prefer the dual-SD slot card design that was obviously planned to start with. I don’t use the X-T1 as an action camera though, so for people who might, the faster write speeds would obviously be a big benefit to them. Again, no matter what Fujifilm did, one group of us would say we wanted dual-cards and the other group would say they wanted faster write speeds so it just comes down to making a choice at the end of the day. As I had pointed out to me… when was the last time an SD card failed on you?
On the left is a properly weather sealed door with a USB, micro HDMI and mic input, which also doubles as an input for connecting an electronic remote shutter into, allowing you to shoot hands-off, or selecting bulb mode and shooting exposures as long as you choose rather than the 30s limit in-camera. There is an option within the Movie settings to choose between mic input and remote shutter. The base of the camera has a rubber plug which removes to allow access to the connection port for the options battery grip.
The battery grip allows the addition of a second battery and has controls for shutter, AE and AF lock, which make shooting in portrait mode easier. The two front and rear dials from the main body are repeated on the grip. The battery grip does balance the camera well and is well designed giving both your little finger something to tuck into on landscape mode and making holding the camera in portrait much nicer providing you don’t have a tripod plate attached. On the base of the grip is a strong single connecting point for a strap. A lock/open button allows access to the second battery. As the grip only contains one battery, if you want to replace the battery in the camera you have to remove the grip to do that. The battery in the grip is used first by the camera and on the screen you get dual power meters.
Onto what everyone is probably wondering why I haven’t said anything about yet .. the electronic viewfinder! Yes, it really is as amazing as you’ve heard! Do not be fooled though, this is the identical EVF from the X-E2 (now updated in firmware to support X-T1 refresh rate on the X-E2). But it has a much higher magnification so appears far larger than in the X-E2 and is an absolute joy to use. Very little information is overlaid on the image to you get a good clear view of what you’re shooting.
The improvements over the previous viewfinders don’t stop there though. The interface within the viewfinder has been redesigned, and to me this is where the biggest change occurs. Everything is designed to make it easier on the eye, easier to view the information you want and not get in the way of the image. The text font and icons have been altered to be easier to view in the viewfinder. When you rotate the camera into portrait mode all the text rotates so that you can read it the right way up. It just seems like such an obvious thing that you’ve got to wonder why nobody else has thought of it before now!
The split-screen range-finder type manual focus aid can be split off from the main image to a smaller side image meaning you have an uninterrupted view of the scene unlike on the X-E2 and X100s where the overlay covers the centre portion of the screen. This is also an option on the rear screen too and not restricted to the EVF only.
All these small changes in the EVF add up to a much improved experience and make using the camera a joy to use. One of the great things about using a CSC is that what you see in the viewfinder is exactly what you get when you take the shot. Unlike a dSLR you can check and adjust your exposure live, and don’t have to rely on checking the image afterwards on the rear screen, meaning that if you want, you never have to take your eye from the viewfinder.
The only time I found the EVF to be difficult to use (this applies to the LCD too) is that in very low light where the gain has been pushed to get a bright image the split-screen focussing is impossible to use because there is too much noise to discern the lines of the split image, the image below is out of focus, but you can’t tell because the gain is too high to see the sharp lines of the split image.
In these circumstances, switching to Focus Peaking is the best option which still works well in low light.
The lag is almost imperceptible even under low light where Fuji claims it retains 50fps, and it certainly seems like that’s true. Until now I felt that the Sony EVFs were better than the Fuji’s, but that feels like it has been reversed now. With the X-E2 receiving a firmware update it brings the fast refresh rate EVF to two cameras in the Fuji X-Series lineup. Updating the X-E2 is something no other manufacturer I know would even consider doing as it could jeopardise sales of the newer X-T1 from existing X-E2 owners. As Fuji have shown in the past though, they care more about long-term customer loyalty than short-term sales gain, a refreshing change!
Shooting with the X-T1
CH mode is frightening! I’m not sure why anyone needs to shoot at whatever the FPS is of that mode. It is certainly a weird experience shooting with an X-Series camera at that rate, it just seems unnatural! The only time I’ve used it is when testing out for this write-up. I’m sure someone will find use for it, but that’s not why I got into the X-Series and not what I do. The auto-focus tracking is said to be improved but honestly I found it wanting. I tested it shooting my little girl running towards me several times and it might manage to get half of the images in focus – I’d still buy a Nikon D4 if I really needed that sort of feature!
I would rather Fujifilm concentrate on other aspects than a feature that just doesn’t seem like it fits within the X-Series philosophy. The video below is a funny way of making a serious point and matches my view exactly on this subject.
[embedvideo id=”KDlyoT75YaM” website=”youtube”]
The autofocus of the X-T1 is the best to date from an X-Series camera. I recently got hold of the Leica Touit 50mm macro lens and put it on the X-E2 initially. It worked ok until I put it in macro mode where it really seemed to struggle. On switching the lens to the X-T1, it was a totally different experience. The difference between the Fuji lenses isn’t as marked as it was with the Zeiss macro lens, but there is a definite improvement, particularly in low light.
The rear screen tilts vertically to almost 90 degrees up and about 45 degrees down. Until you’ve used a camera with one of these you don’t realise how useful they are. You almost feel crippled when going back to a camera without one. The only problem is that when you shoot landscape it becomes useless and you feel frustrated that it doesn’t flip horizontally too. However, there is a new solution for that….
…the Fuji Camera Remote App. In a word – fantastic! Actually several euphoric adjectives can be used to describe it, but it is better than I ever expected Fuji to come up with. I loved the remote app on that Sony had with the A7 despite it being a bit limited, the Fuji one blows that out of the water! You have full control over the camera. It isn’t totally perfect though, and I’ll get to some additions and alterations I’d like to see later.
It took me a while to get used to the whole WiFi thing on the X-M1 and caused me quite a bit of frustration with either not connecting in time, or the camera/device pairing up. I think a combination of App updates and me understanding it better has led me to find it now very easy to use and connect.
The Remote Cam App also allows you to control both stills and video, and then through the App receive them onto the iPhone/iPad/Android device. There are native versions for both iPhone and iPad. Be sure to choose the correct application though as the previous Fujifilm Camera App does’t have the tethering capabilities, it is the Fujifilm Camera Remote App you need.
The is no automatic transfer to the device though, something else I would like to see as an option. I was taking photos of birds outside and had the camera on a tripod next to the bird feeder and was in the house cosy and warm shooting out of sight, which was what I expect will be a fairly typical use for this. I’ll be doing a video on the App when I get the chance.
There are a couple of things that I’d like to see. The first is very frustrating and I cannot see any logic in it whatsoever. Whatever mode you have the camera in when you connect to the App (PASM) it is locked in that mode until you disconnect. For example, if you have it in Aperture Priority mode you can change the aperture from the remote App but nothing else. To change the shutter speed you have to disconnect, come out of the app altogether change the mode physically on the camera then start-up the wifi, connect the device and relaunch the app. I just don’t get that at all! The camera dials won’t show what’s really going on anyway so why bother to restrict it in that way. When you might have your camera outside and you don’t want to disturb what you’re shooting it is a real frustration to deal with as it is so easy to forget to select the correct mode before connecting.
The other thing I’d like to see is the liveview preview in full screen on the device. At the moment it is a small box at the top of the App. On the iPhone this can make it a challenge to see, and more importantly to actually touch focus on the right spot. A full-screen preview would make it much more useable and on the iPad would mean you could get a nice large live-view of the image. As part of this, I’d also like to see the live-view automatically zoom when you do manual focus to allow you to get absolute critical focus when doing things manually. The Sony App does this and in a studio it is a really nice thing to have.
High ISO images are very impressive. The details tend to get smudged, as they always do when you push the ISO up to the extremes, but what impressed me most is the colour retention at the silly settings as I call them – 12800 and 25600. I mean I wouldn’t make A3 prints from them, but I’m pretty sure I’d be happy with 6×4 prints from ISO 12800 images or family holiday use. I very rarely use over ISO3200, but when hon holiday at Disney, in the indoor rides that just wasn’t high enough to get shots without using a very sow shutter speed. Just for fun I tried out ISO12800 and 26500 and couldn’t believe how good they were. I’d not use those settings on a regular basis so not having RAW files for images above ISO6400 doesn’t bother me, but for very occasional use for family things where it means I could get a shot I wouldn’t be able to otherwise, they surpass my expectations.
The X-T1 is the only X-Series camera with a built-in intervalometer, which is great for time-lapse. It works well in practice and is easy to set up with two basic settings, one for interval time and the second showing the number of shots. One thing that strikes me as odd though is that it is artificially limited to 999 shots, which might sound like a lot, but in time-lapse you often shoot many more than you need to either pick and choose the part you want, or you run the time-lapse at a faster rate to get a smoother video. It seems silly to restrict it in this way when in reality the only restriction should be the number of images your SD card can store.
Battery life seems to last well, in the video below I shot 999 images in 2s intervals with a fully charged battery and despite leaving the rear-screen active the camera was still showing a full battery (obviously it wasn’t but was showing 3/3 bars) when it was done. I shot a further two sequences at 500 images each on the same battery without any problem.
The following was a 999 shot sequence at 2s intervals, which I put together in Photoshop and exported as a 4K video, which you can watch in up to 4K on YouTube.
[embedvideo id=”O39xd_wmF-M” website=”youtube”]
Unlike some other cameras, you have to manually create the time-lapse video from the stills. Sometimes it is just nice to have the camera create the video file, especially when travelling, rather than having to import all the files to a computer and create the video. The majority of the time I’d pull it together myself though anyway.
I really love using the X-T1 to shoot time-lapse and overall it does a pretty good job and I’m so pleased that an intervalometer finally made it into an X-Series camera! Expect to see a lot more of these!…
[embedvideo id=”QnpxfXyA_5U” website=”youtube”]
Video with the X-T1
What do I say here?! Video has never been a strong point of the X-Series cameras. It has been included as a courtesy and Fujifilm have made it fairly clear that their cameras are about shooting stills rater than video. However on the X-T1 we do have a few more options to play with. Video can be recorded in either 30 or 60fps at 1080 and 720. There is an external microphone input (albeit 2.5mm rather than standard 3.5mm) and an option to adjust the mic level in-camera. Beyond that there is nothing! There is no video mode, you simply start recording by pressing the record button. There are no manual controls when shooting video. The only thing you can do it set the aperture before you start to shoot, everything else is completely automatic. None of the other functions, shutter speed, ISO or exposure compensation can be used, which seems like a shame as it surely isn’t that difficult to allow them to be used?
Video quality isn’t amazing, but neither is it terrible! It does suffer from aliasing on occasion, especially in fine details.
OK, Confession time!….
….which camera do I pick up out of the X-Pro1, X-E2 and X-T1 when I want to shoot now? The X-T1! Just don’t tell my X-Pro1! Yes, ok fine, I admit it.. the X-T1 has totally won me over despite all I have said against it and me not wanting to like it for any of the reasons above! Everything Fuji have done just makes it overall an easier camera to shoot with. The X-E2 still gets used plenty and having the same sensor it is handy because I don’t have to match two sets of images to look the same from a single shoot – I just know images from either camera come out looking identical, unlike when I used to work with the X100 and X-Pro1. What I don’t do however is go back to shooting with it like a dSLR. I use it as my X100 and X-Pro1 taught me, slow and steady, wait for the right moment and click, but when that right moment comes along I know my best chance of capturing it is on the X-T1.
The X-T1 isn’t a perfect camera for everyone to shoot with, it isn’t a 100% perfect camera for me, and someone somewhere will always find something that doesn’t suit them – that’s fine! If it doesn’t suit you then you’re not forced to use it, that’s the beauty of there being many other manufacturers and models around. What I can say is that the X-T1 is the best camera I’ve used so far, not only in the Fujifilm range, but in all of the cameras I’ve used to date. It suits my style, my way of shooting and does what I want it to do with little fuss. Any irritation that you may find when you first start shooting with one soon tends to go away once you’ve become used to it. I’ve shot with it pretty much every day for the past 3 months and I now cannot think of anything that is a genuine day-to-day issue or annoyance with the camera, if anything it just continues to impress me more.
I picked up my X-Pro1 to use again recently after not using it for a while and had never noticed the lag in the EVF before, but going back to it from the X-T1 you can immediately see just how good the X-T1 EVF is and how such a relatively small thing makes a big difference. Other things like being able to auto preview the image for just 0.5s instead of 1.5s minimum on the X-Pro1 make shooting that much quicker. Again, it isn’t something that had really bothered me before and something that I hadn’t noticed! It comes back to what I was saying earlier, no camera is prefect, I love the X-Pro1 and never really noticed things like that when I was shooting with it regularly, you just get used to shooting with what you have and living with it. It never got in the way before and I would probably not have found these things an issue on the X-T1, but I can’t say that it isn’t nice to have these improvements even if you don’t really notice all of them until you go back again!
I have to say that the tilting screen is a real advantage in many situations and almost makes me want to use the X-T1 above the others for that alone. The EVF does make shooting nicer, but personally I shoot with the rear screen most of the time these days. The few dSLR people I’ve shown both the X-E2 and X-T1 to have all immediately picked the X-T1 because as soon as they put their eye to the viewfinder all they wanted was that large viewfinder above everything else! The side-loading SD card is a nice feature and when you use a tripod it’s great to have. The in-built intervalometer is something I’ve missed from my dSLR days and one thing I’ve been waiting for, a handy in-camera feature. I really love the remote control App and wish that Fuji had brought that to the X-E2 with the firmware update, perhaps it will come in the future.
In some ways I see the X-T1 as a step backwards towards the dSLR and away from the fabulous design of the X-Series that drew me to it in the first place, the slow and steady approach to photography that has improved my skills, but in a lot of other ways it is very much a step forwards towards easier to use, faster CSCs. I still don’t like the look of the X-T1 compared to the other X-Series cameras, it hasn’t grown on me at all. As a working tool however it improves on all of the previous X-Mount X-Series cameras making things just a little easier to do. Other than looks and price I cannot think of any reason not to choose the X-T1 over the other cameras in the X-Mount range. Of course price is an important consideration, and if your budget doesn’t stretch to the X-T1 that does not mean the X-E1, X-E2 or X-Pro1 etc. are suddenly bad cameras, you will still get great image quality out of them and love their unique look and feel.
What I really wanted to tell you by the end of this was that the X-T1 isn’t worth the extra money over buying an X-E2 as internally it is pretty much identical. From the offset that was what I had fixed in my mind, but having used the camera for a while now I can’t do that. The more I use this camera the more it impresses me leaving me no option other than to say an emphatic yes, it really is worth buying over all the other X-Series models. All the small improvements add up to a much more useful camera overall. The X-T1 is definitely much more viable as a working professional camera for a much wider range of professionals than any other X-Series model, and has very quickly become my go-to camera for when I simply want to pick up and shoot with no fuss.
I’m not sure I need to add anything about image quality, we all know what to expect from an X-Series by now and the X-T1 doesn’t disappoint. With the ever-growing range of exceptional lenses you just cannot go wrong. More and more professionals are moving over to the X-Series cameras, and they aren’t doing it for fashion.
If Fujifilm keep improving the X-Series the way they have I’m going to have to start rating them out of more than 100% as there is little room on the scale for me to mark the next model higher!
More technical information about the X-T1 can be found on the Fujifilm website here.
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